Perhaps everyone has a special interest or hobby that consumes them but at the same time, they keep to themselves. I have two such interests, one I have been writing about for years now and one I had not thought about in a number of years until quite recently.
For well over a decade I have been getting and collecting chapbooks, mostly of poetry but also other oddities as they present themselves. Primarily because I am a published of chapbooks. Plan B Press primarily publishes chapbooks. We have since 1999. I have been aware that the history of chapbooks is much older than that but that's when I started.
Prior to that, from the time that cassette decks and tapes came into vogue, I was making my own mixtapes. Before High Fidelity, before Hip Hop. I haven't really thought about the "when" of it as it pertains to my involvement in the form, but it would have had to be the late 1970s (after I decided that the failed 8-track format as a dud) Because I had been a DJ on college radio and knew a bit about segues, I liked that a cassette allowed for that nearly perfect segues from song to song as one could in the booth with two turntables going.
Throughout the 1980s and well into the 1990s I made dozens upon dozens of tapes. From vinyl and from other cassettes. Mixology. Then, I moved and the machines didn't move with me. I moved light - kept the tapes but had no machinery to listen to them with. They sat in boxes for several moves. To Philadelphia, to Alexandria,VA and then to Fairfax,VA. Finally, when we moved back to Alexandria, my wife turned to me and said, "let's get a deck so we can listen to your tapes". She had made tapes too, her family made their living ON THE AIR as it were. However, I had tons more than she did so the primary focus was for me to listen to my tapes and perhaps purge the ones that were dups or didn't work anymore.
I did purge some - then about three weeks ago I was trolling the local Freecycle and saw that someone was offering a box of mixtapes. I pounced. I now have over a hundred (new to me) mixtapes. Some of the tapes I cringed at the sight of: Supertramp, Weather Report, Yellowkjackets. I will be moving them along. But some are very good. They play as though I had recorded them myself, but I hadn't. The handwriting is different. I am enjoying the experience and of course I am thinking about my own history mixing, the mixing that captured the moment of my life I was recording. All that. I feel a little like a voyeur listening to someone else's moments being captured. It's weird. The same can be said about chapbooks.
Not all, but some; the self-published ones in particular. They were being made as a mixtape on paper. They are theme-encapturing. They are about that moment, generally. Dealing with a death of a loved one. A spouse. They aren't really meant for general distribution. But they are made and occasionally one ends up in my collection.
Other chapbooks are not time sensitive but are "greatest hits" or the like. Some presses push the page count till they are all but books with spines, or a books with spines but are really cheating because the page count is slight.
I like the idea of a chapbook as a paper mixtape, I will be using that phrase in the future.